Protesters call on Liberal government to save Cardiac Fitness Institute

Demonstrators outside MPP Deb Matthews' London office call on government to restore funding to the Cardiac Fitness Institute on March 15, 2018. Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

Two dozen Londoners took their concerns to the office of MPP Deb Matthews in a last-ditch attempt to save London’s Cardiac Fitness Institute (CFI).

Run by Dr. Larry Patrick out of London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) Commissioners Rd. campus, the cardiac-focused gym will soon be closing after the hospital refused to renew its annual $150,000 commitment to the initiative, citing a need to re-purpose the space in which the program is currently housed.

Ontario’s Liberal government has not intervened, citing decisions like these are best made by local hospitals.

That didn’t deter demonstrators from calling on London North Centre Liberal MPP Deb Matthews, formerly Ontario’s health minister and deputy premier, to step in.

It’s just one step in a larger coordinated effort by the London Health Coalition.

“We’re encouraging people to contact the (LHSC) CEO, the hospital board, the LHIN and the LHIN board, the health minister, the premier,” said Jeff Hanks, the London Health Coalition’s co-chair. “It just makes sense. It saves money. It saves resources. It costs a pittance … They’d be showing leadership if they change their decision on this.”

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The rally’s attendees chanted, signed a petition to be distributed among stakeholder attendees and wielded signs adorned with hearts intended to symbolize the program’s impact. Hanks said he wants Matthews — and all Londoners — to know how “catastrophic” the CFI’s closure will be for London.

Among those in attendance was Terence Kernaghan, the provincial New Democrats’ candidate for London North Centre.

In a statement, Kernaghan blamed chronic underfunding of the province’s health care system by previous Liberal and Conservative governments for the looming closure of the CFI.

“Londoners take pride in our excellent health care but our system is in chaos,” he said.

“The Liberal government refuses to do the right thing and keep the CFI open. For 15 years, they’ve been making cuts in our health care system, and look where it’s gotten us… This crisis didn’t happen overnight.”

The program has been around for nearly 40 years, currently patronized by 1,400 patients, who use gym equipment under the supervision of medical staff proficient in cardiac care.

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